Opinion: Review’s coverage of AB 1991 is biased and incomplete


By on Sat, May 10, 2008

This is an updated version of an opinion previously posted on hmbreview.com
This week’s issue of the Half Moon Bay Review contained a "news" story by recently-hired reporter Mark Noack that described the April 30 Assembly Local Government Committee hearing on AB 1991—a bill that seeks to exempt the 129-house Beachwood/Glencree development from having to comply with our state’s environmental laws.
The proposed bill is part of a sweetheart deal that the Half Moon Bay City Council is attempting to consummate for wealthy developer Charles "Chop" Keenan. To date, the City Council has failed to address a number of questions about this deal. The issues extend beyond Half Moon Bay to all of California.
I don’t wish to pick on Noack, but the Review’s story on the AB 1991 hearing was less than objective, to put it mildly. I would go so far as to say it was unprofessional—-but that would elevate the story to being viewed as an actual piece of journalism, which it clearly is not.



For all I know, Noack was just complying with the wishes of his bosses, editor Clay Lambert and publisher Debra Godshall. The headline of the story, composed by Lambert, read, "AB 1991 becomes a Capitol idea." It doesn’t take a genius to see that the wording of the headline is trying to put some positive spin on the bill. Media bias is usually not so blatant. What about this for a headline: "AB 1991 becomes a Controversial idea"? That would have provided readers with a much better sense of the truth.

Lambert later claimed that his headline was only meant to be a play on words—a pun—since the AB 1991 hearing was held in Sacramento in the state capitol building. Wikipedia defines a pun as "a phrase that deliberately exploits confusion between similar-sounding words for…rhetorical effect."  Sounds about right.

Next, we have the story leading off with four paragraphs about Joshua Bassofin from Defenders of Wildlife, who spoke all of about ten words at the hearing—towards the very end of the public comment period. The Review also points out that Bassofin "hadn’t read the legislation." Maybe not, but he certainly understood the issues at stake based on all the public controversy about AB1991.
The Review doesn’t even mention Sarah Christie, the Legislative Director of the California Coastal Commission who gave a very clear, forceful, and fact-based presentation against AB 1991. The Review also fails to mention speakers from the Sierra Club and the California Audubon Society who gave lengthy presentations. But the Review does go out of its way to mention Mary Brune of "Making our Milk Safe" who, like Bassofin, also said about 10 words in opposition to the bill towards the very end of the public comment period.
Did the Review story give the public an accurate overall picture of what took place at the hearing? Not even close.
Local "resident" Judy Taylor is quoted in the story, but not identified as one of the numerous realtors who trekked up to the hearing. Taylor has frequently advocated pro-development policies during public hearings about updating the HMB and Midcoast Local Coastal Programs. Did Taylor "read the legislation"? The Review doesn’t say.
My own observations from the hearing were previously posted here on Coastsider. But don’t take my word for it, just watch the actual video of the hearing provided by Darin Boville of Montara Fog.